His Witness, Her Child
by Ann Voss Peterson
(Harl. Intrigue #618, $4.25, PG-13) ISBN: 0-373-22618-7
When all is said and done, I have a sneaking suspicion that my problems with His Witness, Her Child had to do with the setting. I just found it difficult to believe that Madison, Wisconsin, is a hotbed of murder and corruption. Perhaps had this book been set in Chicago or even Milwaukee, I might have had fewer reservations because it is an interesting story.

Jacqueline Schettler receives a desperate call from her seven year old daughter Amanda late one night. She is at her daddyís brew pub and she just saw someone murder her father. Jacqueline has no doubt who the culprit is. Her ex-husband Mark was the key witness in the murder trial of Buck Swain, an ex-war hero who has turned to crime. Jacqueline knows that Amanda will be the next victim if anyone learns that she saw the murder, so she races to the pub to bring her daughter home.

Dillon Reese is the Assistant District Attorney who is trying the case. He concludes that Amanda may have seen the murderer. But Jacqueline refuses to cooperate; she will not put her daughter in harmís way. When another witness is summarily shot to death while under police protection, Amanda becomes the only key to the case. But Dillon has become suspicious. How did Buck learn where the other witness was? Someone within the homicide team has to be leaking secrets to the killer. So Dillon decides to undertake to protect Amanda and Jacqueline himself, even if it means putting his career on the line.

Jacqueline, Amanda and Dillon manage to stay just one step ahead of the killer. There is danger and suspense galore as they flee from both a known and an unknown enemy. Both Jacqueline and Dillon have lots of chances to demonstrate how brave and clever they are. Finally the villain is unmasked and justice prevails.

Jacqueline and Dillon had felt frissions of attraction before they are thrown together in these desperate circumstances. But Dillon had eschewed all thoughts of a normal life in his pursuit of justice, a pursuit rooted in his guilt over his sisterís murder ten years earlier. Jacqueline finds Dillon attractive, but knows that his passion for justice comes before any personal relationships. Yet she finds his strength and determination to protect her daughter and his way of dealing with the traumatized child most attractive.

Good romantic suspense requires an aura of danger and this Peterson succeeds in providing. It also requires that the reader believe that the scenario could really happen. This is where the author failed this particular reader. I simply couldnít accept that the steps that Dillon takes were the logical and best way that he could have protected his witness. There were other alternatives that would not have placed Amanda and Jacqueline in danger. Thus, the suspense seemed overly contrived.

I did enjoy the romance between Dillon and Jacqueline. Both were attractive and interesting characters and I was able to see how they would fall in love.

Ann Voss Peterson is a new author. This is her second book for Harlequin Intrigue. She writes well and creates good characters. As she hones her craft, she should have a promising career as a romance writer.

--Jean Mason

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